What is a Press Release?


Since a press release can offer any business many benefits and be a powerful tool for marketing, it is important for public relations professionals to know how to use them strategically. A condensed article that highlights something newsworthy or interesting about a company or organization is what makes up a press release. It is written in a journalistic style.

Although press releases are effective, they are short lived. They give you only a limited amount of time before their impact becomes old news. The trick is to submit them to the right places. If you do this, you just might get a phone call that requests an interview. That would be a tremendous outcome both for your business and website. A press release just might get your business out into the public at no cost to you.

Before You Write

Before you write, you must know what your goal is with your press release.

  • What is it you want the press release to accomplish?
  • Are you aiming to create brand awareness of your website or products?
  • Are you aiming to add subscribers to a newsletter?
  • Are you promoting a new product or service that you have developed?

It is also important that you know the 5 W’s. You must know who, what, when, where and why. Once you know your purpose and the 5 W’s, you are ready to write.

Two Major Components of a Press Release

Headline: Remember that in order to get anyone to read a press release you must first “grab their attention”. In short, the headline is the beacon to lead the way. It must be extremely capable of arousing interest. It should, of course, be bold type and the font should be larger than the body text. There should be a maximum number of characters of 80-125. Every word should be capitalized except “a”, “an”, “the”, or words that are three characters or less.

First Paragraph: Most journalists know that the basic format of a press release includes the five W’s. Who, when, what, where and why information must be the core of any news story. In a news story, these facts are included in a concise and clear way. Although many reporters may put the five W’s in the first few paragraphs to allow room for a lead that is catchy, it is best to include them all in the first paragraph and up front in your press release.

Stephanie Burke of Highwire PR explains the reason for the five W’s in the first paragraph is: “Most people’s attention spans are incredibly short. It’s key to get the most important information at the top of the page; that way, the reader takes away a solid understanding of your news.”

Why is a solid opening essential to having media outlets pick up your press release? David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision Public Relations, told Business News Daily small businesses would be foolish in thinking that a press release will be picked up in its entirety. Johnson further explained, “Usually what is picked up, if anything is the first paragraph. That paragraph needs to pass the ‘smell test’ of the reporter. If it doesn’t, the press release won’t receive coverage.”

Johnson also recommends including a short description of your company and its products, social media platform links as well as contact information for reporters.

To help give some actionable advice for you today – we have compiled 10 quick tips to best leverage the press release in 2015.

Ten Actionable Tips for the Press Release in 2015

Newsworthy: Is the topic of your press release really newsworthy? To be newsworthy, it should, of course, be “new”. Ask yourself what you are doing in your company that is new. Perhaps, you have undertaken new research. What the media really loves is reports of things that are the fastest, biggest, smallest, and exciting. If you don’t want your press releases to end up in a trash folder of a reporter, you should write about major announcements such as new products or services, special events or recognitions. You should include all these newsworthy claims and back up each of them.

Concise: A press release should be only one page. It certainly must never go over two pages in length.

Be Personal: Communicate your key messages in a dynamic way. A quotation might be a good way to accomplish this. Most importantly, you should sound excited or thrilled about what your company is doing. Don’t bother to write a press release that is not about something very interesting, new, or exciting. It won’t be read if it isn’t.

Email: If you send out a press release in the form of an email, it must be in the email main body. An attachment of a word document will not be opened by the media.

Be Factual and Clear: A press release is not a competition in prose writing. It is far more important to be clear, factual and informative. In any case, you should avoid ‘fluffy language’ in the main body.

No Sales Pitch: A press release must be to inform the public about an event that is newsworthy. Its purpose is not to advertise a product even though that would be a great byproduct.

Be Wise: Your press release topic should be chosen wisely. In order to develop a good name and reputation, strong stories should be chosen. Publish rubbish and your reputation goes down the drain.

Optimize: It is important to know how to write a press release that is powerfully optimized. A press release that is optimized can drive lots of targeted traffic to your website, and a number of back links will lead to both an increased page rank and many top ten search engine rankings for your keywords. In order to optimize, you should use some of your keywords in the first and last paragraphs. Keyword saturation should be about 2 to 5% exposure throughout the press release.

Contact Details: You should always be sure to put your contact details at the bottom of a press release. The contact details should include your full name, telephone number, email and mobile address. It is for your benefit for a reporter to reach you easily when interested in your press release.

Proof: By all means, proofreading is essential to any press release. There is nothing worse than a submission chock full of grammatical errors. If you aren’t confident in your ability to proof, get someone who is to proof it.